Regardless of what its title might suggest, Incubation does not chart the development of Function’s 17 years in techno music.
The first long-player from Dave Sumner is impeccable on the ears, and boasts a clutch of standout tracks. But when the New York native told the Defected website that Incubation was his “as much as... Sandwell District’s,” he was rather wrong.
The Ostgut-Ton-released album is ostensibly less Sumner than Sandwell: a Polaroid of the aesthetic mythologised in the late noughties by Function, Regis et al before the shadowy, closed-door movement shut down in 2011.
Incubation is a less exclusive affair, however, with Sumner roping in Berlin neighbour Tobias Freund to engineer the mixdown. Freund’s extensive two-decade mileage, working with the revered likes of Uwe Schmidt and Max Loderbauer, proves a major boon here as he smooths the tracks out with crisp, clear soundsystem value.
That the record levels up on Function’s already-laudable production quality is immediately obvious. ‘Voiceprint’ is a gripping opener, uncanny keys jangling over forbidding low-end amidst spectral sighs.
The melody is luxuriant - and catchy, even - so its reappearance near the end of the album is more than welcome. Evidently and admirably packaged for the DJs, ‘Voiceprint (Reprise)’ marries the haunting ambience with driving, nearly breakneck percussion to evoke Detroit sci-fi anthems of yesteryear.
Speaking of memorable tunes and unabashed nostalgia, ‘Inter’ is particularly conspicuous. The theme is plain, gentle and soul-sweeping in a blissful, ‘90s IDM way, and an ‘Album Version’ of a track previously released on Sumner’s last single for Sandwell.
As one of the superior numbers on this album, its inclusion here does more than signal tribute to the vaunted collective that Function played such a huge role in. For, exempting the aforementioned tracks, ‘Inter’ sits in uninspiring company - if only because they do little more than rehash Sandwell’s conceptual heritage.
One might argue that Sandwell District is, after all, a large part (if not whole) of Function. Neither can this album be discredited as a poor listen. But given the glut of nostalgia going around, is it too much to expect some forward-thinking out of figures as iconic as Dave Sumner and Ostgut-Ton? This is techno, after all - where form is supposed to follow function.
02. Against The Wall
05. Incubation (Ritual)
06. Inter (Album Version)
07. Voiceprint (Reprise)
08. Psychic Warfare
09. Gradient I (CD only)